So you have the travel itch and want to run off without leaving your pup behind, huh? Or maybe you’re already traveling solo and think getting a pup would be the best company. I’m right there with you. As a dog mom, my dog is my best friend and I want him to experience all these beautiful places with me. Monty has been to 16 states and counting! Still, I didn’t know what to expect when I ran off to hop the States with him by my side. I knew there would be challenges to being a single dog mom traveling solo, and in just a few months time I quickly learned what those were.
Type of travel is limited
Some people go through the trouble to take their dog on a plane, but I don’t. Even if he/she is a service dog, there are documents and procedures you have to go through ahead of time. And if they aren’t a service dog, they’ll be flying in the cargo bin. Unless Monty is sitting in the seat next to me, I will never board him on a plane and put him down there. I have heard way too many horror stories and do not want to chance putting him through that anxiety and losing him for good. Therefore, our type of travel is limited to driving. And if you find yourself limited to driving, you’ll find yourself limited to how far you can go and how fast.
You can’t go everywhere
If you’re limited to driving, that will mean you can’t go overseas. So you’re stuck with driving within your own country. Luckily for me, I love road-trips and I love driving. Not only that, but I am interested in traveling and experiencing my own country before going overseas- so for me it is a win-win.
You’ll quickly find there are some cities that are more dog friendly than others and this really limits what you can do while you’re there. You want to go shopping at the mall? Time to find a babysitter. You want to check out the aquarium? Better call that babysitter again. Unfortunately dogs aren’t as equal as humans, so they are restricted from many places. When Monty and I were in Myrtle Beach he was only allowed on the beach before 10am and after 5pm. Luckily I had someone to watch him so I could get sunburnt on the beach and shop at Broadway. While we were in Durango, Co however, I didn’t have someone to watch him. Luckily many of the unique shops downtown allow dogs to enter so I was able to shop the boutiques and get us ice cream!
Moral of the story here- the things you do and the way you experience places will have to be different than the majority of others.
You will need a break
Since you’ll pretty much be going everywhere and doing everything together you may need a break. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you love your dog bunches. But it’s just like a best friend or significant other- sometimes you need your own time and space. A dog can quickly smother you if they’re extremely attached (which Monty is a stage 1 clinger), and also at times I feel like I need a break from taking care of someone else. I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with needing a little break, even from your own dog! Plus sometimes I feel like he even gets sick of me too 😉
Everyone will either want to talk to you, or will be afraid of you
Recently Monty and I were on the beaches near Myrtle Beach, SC and I swear every person was either asking to pet him or hollering at me “your dog is beautiful!” It was a much different response from that in Scottsdale, AZ where people were snatching their kids up and keeping as far away as possible. I don’t mind the latter as much because sometimes I don’t feel like being social with strangers and want to continue doing what I was doing But, if your dog isn’t as mean looking as Monty, be prepared for him/her to be a magnet in some places.
There are some destinations they should not go to
Some dogs just aren’t meant for certain destinations. For instance, if you have a little Chihuahua it probably wouldn’t like Denver, CO during the winter. Or a big furry dog such as a Husky in the Phoenix, AZ valley during the summer. They’d be miserable during these times, so what would you even be able to do?! Certainly not take them outside to the dog parks or for a hike. You can still visit these destinations, you’ll just have to pay attention to the best time for you and your pup to visit. I’ve found that when taking along your pup it sometimes takes a little extra planning so you can ensure you BOTH have the best time while you’re there.
I recently tried running off to Nashville, TN for a girls weekend. We planned on touring the city, laying by the pool, and going out at night. It wasn’t the right destination to bring Monty along. I didn’t want to take him and have him cooped up all day inside! When searching for a babysitter, I just couldn’t find one that I trusted. I even did house visits and Monty had terrible anxiety while there and the people weren’t even trying to connect with him! How could I leave him? I had to make the decision to stay behind and not go. It wasn’t a big deal to me because being a good dog mom was more of a priority than Nashville. I’ll make it there some other time. But it is important to understand that sometimes your travel plans just don’t work while having a pup, and you’ll need to make some sacrifices.
You have to pack double
Just like you have to pack a child’s diaper bag, you should be packing a bag for your pup too. I keep a duffel bag specifically for Monty’s toys, food, dishes, and other things while traveling and when he gets babysat. If we’re hiking then I pack his backpack with the essentials you can read about here, as well as the rest in my pack. Yes this makes my backpack twice as heavy because I have to carry twice the amount of water and food, but I’m the one that took him along so I feel like I can’t complain. Just as long as you are aware your car will even be fuller than normal 😉
You learn to be more aware of diseases
Every year there seems to be something new going around killing our favorite furry friends. This summer it was the blue green algae in waters and it seemed we were too close to the incidents for comfort. I had to make the decision to not allow Monty in any lakes and rivers for the rest of the summer because I didn’t want to chance it. Being aware of new diseases and things such as this is important if you want to keep your pup alive and healthy. Not only that, but being aware of local poisonous snakes and ticks is a good idea too! I had the biggest scare this summer when I found a tick on Monty’s head and it looked just like a Deer Tick. I rushed him to the animal hospital here in Junaluska, NC worrying to death about him getting a disease. Thankfully it was only a Dog Tick and harmless! But things like this do happen and you can help prevent them.
You feel protected
If you have (or plan on getting) a medium to large size dog you’ll really reap the benefits of this one! I had mentioned before that Monty is a stage 1 clinger, but he is also a stage 1 psycho. He warns me of anyone coming nearby, anyone he doesn’t like, he stays up at night and guards our camping territory, and doesn’t allow strangers at gas stations to walk up on me. To me, these are all very important while being a female solo traveler. By no means does your dog need to be as protective because guess what- so many people are afraid of dogs no matter what! Just having a sizable pup next to you will do enough to ward some people off or at the very least warn you if something or someone is trying to break into your tent/car/rv (small dogs included). Simply having a pup around gives you an extra set of eyes and ears that have 3x better senses than yours!
You’re alone, but not alone
At times I’ll be driving and forget Monty is with me even though he’s curled up in the passenger seat. When I look over and remember he’s there it comforts me and a genuine smile spreads across my face; I’m happy to have him by my side. When traveling solo with your pup you get all of the benefits of solo travel PLUS the benefits of having company! Need a cuddle partner at night? They’re ready. Don’t want to talk during the hike? They won’t. There’s just something about having a furry companion with you that makes you feel a little less alone.
Your bond will strengthen
The more you do with your pup, the more your bond will strengthen. Take at least one week long trip with them and I promise you’ll gain a bigger bond! They will learn that you’re their constant and won’t want to leave your side. If you’re taking them along on hikes, to parks, and letting them enjoy the outdoors with you that’ll resonate with them. They’ll live a happier life and owe it all to you!
You will smile a lot more
You know those funny videos of dogs that go viral on the internet? I feel like that is my life 24/7. If your dog has a big personality, be prepared to laugh and truly enjoy watching them have fun at each destination. It is hard to be anything but happy when Monty is around because he gets just as excited as I do! He’s constantly hanging his head out the window while we drive, running around fields, and up and down trails with his tongue hanging out. How can you not smile when seeing them so happy in such a new and beautiful place?!
Your travels will become your favorite memories
Despite all of the ‘cons’ to traveling with a dog, the pro’s greatly outweigh them. Traveling the States with Monty will forever be my favorite memories. I know that when I look back at my 20’s THIS is what will define them- I learned how to be happy on my own and not depend on anyone, I gained confidence and navigated this country solo, checked off my bucket-list items, visited places I never knew existed- and all with my best companion by my side.
What do you think, is it worth it to you?!